Friday, August 22, 2014

The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) on Value Added Tax (VAT) in The Bahamas

The PLP Unleashes the VAT BOMB!

With Value Added Tax (VAT) now just 4 months away, the legislative arm of the government has only now completed debate on the laws which will govern tax reform in the Bahamas.  In just 132 days, scores of businesses will be forced to confront the impact of the new taxes on their profit margins, which has raised concerns about further job losses and a deferment of new hires in an already struggling national economy.

True to form however, this Christie led administration has waited until the 11th hour to table, debate and pass the legislation making any real preparation on the part of the local business community, nearly impossible.  Even as Wednesday evening’s debate wrapped, scores of Bahamians in various sectors of society remain unclear about how this new tax will truly affect their lives.

Most noteworthy however, was Mr. Christie’s absence from the actual vote.  Billed as the cornerstone of the Prime Minister’s plans for fiscal reform in the Bahamas, VAT will have long lasting and far reaching implications for the citizenry of this country; however the PM’s failure to be present when the bill was passed displays a lack of focus and calls into question his commitment to providing economic stability.

Over the past few days, the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) has watched ministers of government attempt to defend the need for VAT by blaming the former administration for the country’s financial woes. While the Free National Movement (FNM) indeed played a key role in the mismanagement of the nation’s wealth, it is not a pattern of behavior limited only to that party. Successive governments – including the first Christie led government – have spent recklessly, borrowed without restraint and sold for little gain, invaluable natural resources. Now however, hardworking Bahamian families and businesses have left holding the bag. We, the people are now being forced to bear the burden of additional taxes in an environment where government officials, their friends, families and lovers are exempt.

The DNA questions whether or not these very members of parliament who have defended this new tax system even consulted with residents within their constituencies. Did they acquire feedback? Did they genuinely listen to and seek to address the myriad of concerns being expressed?

Parliamentarians are representatives OF THE PEOPLE; chosen BY THE PEOPLE, to represent the INTERESTS OF THE PEOPLE. Elected officials are not simply put in power to push the agenda of any one political organization. Instead, they are mandated to outline the views of their constituents and ensure that the interests of those constituents are being served in way that pushes the country forward. If it is the intent of this administration to spark real progress, then Members of Parliament and Cabinet Ministers alike must listen to the voice of the electorate and make decisions which benefit the overwhelming majority.

After years of failing to adequately collect the taxes already on the books is this government really serious about reform or is this an easy way out solution? As has been recommended by countless local business leaders, the government must prove itself capable of recouping the millions already owed BEFORE they implement a new regime.

Before VAT, there must be a comprehensive and detailed education process, one which targets Bahamians at all educational, social, and economic levels to ensure that all Bahamians are fully aware of the impact of the new tax system.

Before VAT, the government MUST enact a Freedom of Information Act to ensure accountability at every level.

The country needs real leadership and good governance. The time for blind following and unwarranted political allegiances is OVER.